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Brighter, Whiter, Fresher: Dental Products

A growing range of dental products offers opportunities for sales growth.



Cat and dog owners are increasingly invested in their pets’ overall health, and dental care ranks high on their list of concerns.

“More and more pet parents are inquiring about what they can do for their pets’ breath and dental health,” said Rose Casesi, co-manager of TailsSpin Pet Food & Accessories, which has locations in the Savannah, Ga., area. “Their level of concern has seemed to increase recently compared to a few years ago.”

That concern, manufacturers and retailers reported, is driven by multiple factors. But whatever the motivation, store owners can harness this trend to help customers and increase sales.

“The dental category doesn’t just sell itself,” said Del Peterson, co-owner of Northwest Pets in Eagle and Meridian, Idaho. “The more you highlight the importance and emerging convenience of the category, the more product you will move.”

Important Considerations
More pet owners are realizing that periodontal diseases can affect dogs and cats just as they do humans.

“They realize that toxins from periodontal disease are absorbed into a pet’s bloodstream, and as the kidney and liver filter the blood, small infections occur, causing permanent—and at times fatal—damage,” said Andrea Margelis, manager of Pets Naturally in Traverse City, Mich. 

By investing in dental care products, many of these same dog and cat owners feel they can prevent disease and infection—and avoid high veterinary bills, retailers reported. 

More Than Toothbrushes 
Thankfully, pet owners have more options for dental care than ever, said Janene Zakrajsek, owner of Pussy & Pooch Pethouse and Pawbar, a retailer with locations in the Los Angeles area.

“We continue to see new products launched in the dental product space that go beyond just brushing with toothpaste and a toothbrush,” Zakrajsek said. “These include foams, wipes, sprays, water additives and a variety of dental chew sticks and functional treats that treat bad breath from the inside out.”

Demand is driving the development of new products, retailers stated.

Natural Balance Pet Foods

Dental chews, which can be given as treats, are a favorite among dog owners who like to spoil their pets. 

“Toothbrushes and toothpastes are becoming a thing of the past,” Margelis said. “Consumers want easier ways to improve dental health—like water additives or products such as PetzLife’s [Oral Care] Spray or Gel.”

Peterson predicts that products emphasizing convenience will continue to see growth, whether they be powders, liquids and gels, or treat-style bones or biscuits. 

“These products are not barn burners, but [they] have been increasing steadily over time,” he said.

For dogs, chews are particularly popular, Casesi said. 

“Customers like the idea of being able to give their pets a treat that they will not only love, but will clean their teeth and aid in bad breath as well,” she said. 

Cat owners, as well as dog owners, are embracing water additives, which can offer other benefits, Casesi added.

“Not only do some of these products have plaque, tartar and bad breath-fighting options, but many now are infused with added benefits, such as glucosamine and chondroitin for hip and joint health, omega 3 and 6s for skin and coat health, and ginger for digestive health,” Casesi said.

Premium Ingredients
Glenn Novotny, vice president of sales and marketing for Emerald Pet Products in Walnut Creek, Calif., said he’s noticed that many customers are concerned with the ingredients in dental care treats.

“Customers are starting to realize they have been giving their pets the best foods possible, but they don’t always remember to check the treats,” Novotny said. “Now they pay more attention to treat ingredients to avoid sweeteners, grains and artificial preservatives.”

Natural dental care products are responsible for the majority of sales increases in this category, Novotny said. He expects to see a continued move away from chews that contain byproducts.

Dog vs. Cat
While sales of dental products for dogs still overshadow those for their feline counterparts, retailers shouldn’t overlook the cat population, manufacturers and retailers noted.

“The cat category is a much smaller group, but … is a recognized need in the marketplace,” said Scott Reinhardt, pet sales and marketing manager for Indigenous Pet Products in Centennial, Colo.

With a wider array of preventive dental care items available, more cat owners are opening their pocketbooks, industry sources noted.

“Dog folks always seem to be more willing to spend money in supplement categories than cat owners,” Northwest Pets’ Peterson said. “It’s also tougher to consider how to go about safely performing procedures like brushing your cat’s teeth. However, we have seen an increase in dental product purchases for cats—especially with regard to dental treats or ‘brushless’ products.”

Education Equals Sales
Dental care recommendations must be individualized, said Lorin Grow, owner of Furry Face in Redlands, Calif.

“People come in with a general idea that they should be doing this, but not usually with specifics in mind,” Grow said. “That which the store recommends—especially in this department—carries the most weight and results in the most sales.”

Dental product sales can start as conversations about other aspects of pet care, she said.

“We often broach the topic when we’re discussing food and nutrition, and it continues from there,” Grow added.

Tina Daily, marketing manager at MiracleCorp in Dayton, Ohio, recommends that retailers arm themselves with knowledge of dental issues.

“It can’t hurt to familiarize themselves and their staffs with the signs and effects of gum disease, in addition to knowing ‘the feel’ of an effective dental treat, either by knowing which ingredients boost the benefits or which shapes scrape plaque and stimulate gums,” she said.

Brian Collier, advertising manager for TropiClean in Wentzville, Mo., recommended that retailers make full use of the help that manufacturers offer.

“We work hard to partner with retailers to provide marketing support with in-store signage, merchandisers, graphics and more,” Collier said.

National Pet Dental Health Month in February offers a month-long promotional opportunity, Peterson said.

“It’s a good way to raise awareness through our newsletters, Facebook posts and promotions,” he said. 

TailsSpin stores use video displays that describe the dental products as well as their importance, Casesi said. She also recommended stocking individual packaged chews, offering samples and providing customers with informative emails about dental health.

“Cross merchandising has aided us in providing pets with preventive dental care by putting the dental treats next to the same-brand food products, making it convenient for customers to grab both at one time,” she added. “Perhaps they did not even know that the specific brand of food they love even made a dental treat as well.”

Pictures can be a powerful customer motivator, sources noted.

“Graphics, especially before and after images, tend to grab people’s attention toward the effectiveness of the product,” Daily said.

For all the growth in this category, many retailers and manufacturers agree that dental products offer a lot of untapped potential for sales growth.

“There is still a great deal of opportunity in this category,” Collier said.

This article originally appeared in the May 2015 issue of Pet Product News

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